A Shill Confidence

Here’s one problem I can encounter when working to maximise sales of a client’s latest new product.  The glamour and glitz of Launch is greeted with dark mutterings inside closed huddles of salespeople bemoaning the product’s shortfalls as catastrophic.

When has each aspect of a new product launch pleased every single salesperson?  Without full product buy-in, it’s an obvious jump to realise that active promotion will flounder.

With confidence lacking, salespeople can come across as shills when pitching.  Here’s a few definitions from around the web for a shill:

  • a decoy who acts as an enthusiastic customer in order to stimulate the participation of others
  • a person paid to endorse a product favourably, while pretending to be impartial
  • an associate of a person selling goods or services or a political group, who pretends no association to the seller/group and assumes the air of an enthusiastic customer

Wikipedia notes that they appear primarily in auctions (false bidders to drive up the price), gambling (house players encouraging others to join in), consumer websites (fake positive reviewers) and journalism (slanting opinion as fact).

The fabled “pet customer”, who can always be relied upon to deliver a glowing reference for you and are genuine Ambassadors for your brand, are often missing for brand new products.

So in solution sales, a shill in this sense can be the existence of an imagined testimonial.  This includes claims for what the product will bring.  They are based on fiction, rather than fact, hope rather then recorded results.

The trouble is, many new product launches do not have processes in place to either gain immediate (preferably pre-launch) clients of this nature, or fail to put in place the mechanisms to capture why any early adopters jump willingly on-board.

The problem comes when letting a salesperson loose on a new product with such stories filling their head, especially when they don’t truly believe.  They find themselves performing the role of “shill”.  Whilst they may not be out to deliberately mislead or deceive, it leads down only one road.  The prospect either never gets to hear an appropriate pitch or when they do, is subconsciously disinclined to consider the proposal at that time.

At the heart of solutions here, is the traditional way products are launched to salesteams.  It goes without saying that the most commonplace approaches, that of the 1-hour presentation at the latest sales meeting or sending the ‘marketing pack’ out with the incentive scheme, require evolving into a managed programme of events and milestones…

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